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2013-06-03. Jellyfish surge in Mediterranean threatens environment – and tourists.

posted Jun 4, 2013, 8:54 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 4. Excerpt: Scientists across the Mediterranean say a surge in the number of jellyfish this year threatens not just the biodiversity of one of the world's most overfished seas but also the health of tens of thousands of summer tourists. ...Professor Stefano Piraino of Salento University in southern Italy...is the head of a Mediterranean-wide project to track the rise in the number of jellyfish as global warming and overfishing clear the way for them to prosper. ..."There are now beaches on the island of Lampedusa, which receives 300,000 tourists a year, where people can only swim for a week in the summer," said Piraino. ...The institute has detected a surge this spring in one of the most poisonous species, the mauve stinger or Pelagia noctiluca, along the coast of Catalonia and Valencia. "We have seen banks several kilometres long and with a density of 30 to 40 jellyfish per square metre," the institute's Verónica Fuentes told Spain's ABC newspaper. ...Global warming, overfishing and human intervention – especially breakwaters that protect sandy beaches but provide a home for larvae – are all blamed. As predators disappear, population surges are happening with greater frequency. ..."The socio-economic impact on tourist areas is huge," said Piraino. "We are losing millions of euros." Beaches in Catalonia are rarely affected for more than 15 days each summer, but some Mediterranean resorts are now considering using two-metre-deep nets to fence off safe zones for bathers. The best protection against stings is suncream, which prevents the venom released by the tentacles from penetrating the skin. ...Not everyone is appalled ...The Chinese have been eating them for 5,000 years and export some $20m worth each year. ...Scientists also point to at least one species of Mediterranean jellyfish – the fried egg jellyfish or Cotylorhiza tuberculata – as a potential source of raw materials for cancer treatments and antioxidants.... http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/03/jellyfish-surge-mediterranean-environment-tourists. Giles Tremlett, The Guardian.